Feb 12, 2021 | NEWS | By Psalm Delaney
In a letter to the Colorado College community on Dec. 15, 2020, Colorado College announced its decision to renew its agreement with the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD). According to the letter, the position of the Campus Resource Officer, who is employed by CSPD, and the seven CC Campus Safety Officer positions will remain occupied.
On Sept. 27, 2020, the student-led Collective for Antiracism and Liberation (CAL) sent a proposal to the college administration asking for changes to police presence on campus. On Nov. 10, 2020, CAL released an updated document of demands calling to divest from the CSPD, eliminate the CRO position, and reinvest funds into the college community.
Nearly three months after CAL’s student proposal and several discussions with the administration and CSPD, some of the coalition’s demands were met while others were not.
Acting Co-President Edmonds selected Rochelle Dickey, the Acting Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Life, Rosalie Rodriguez, the Associate Dean of Students for Equity and Inclusion, and Dr. Michael Sawyer, professor of Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies, to begin a comprehensive review of CC’s relationship with the CSPD last year.
In the Dec. 15 update, the team announced the amendments to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between CC and the CSPD, shared plans for a presidentially-elected campus safety advisory board called the Campus Safety Oversight Committee (CSOC), and proposed a campus think tank.
The Colorado College Student Government Association, Faculty Executive Committee, and Staff Council, will appoint the student, faculty, and staff members of the CSOC, respectively. In addition, the board will include an “at-large student” and a broader community member from a neighborhood close to CC.
Additionally, the CRO and Campus Safety Officer positions will now require workshops regarding trauma-informed care, anti-racism, and mental health training. The CSOC will approve the content of the workshops, make the content available to the rest of the college community, and will be involved in future CRO selection processes.
“We want to acknowledge the work that has been done in collaboration with the CC admin, faculty, and students,” wrote CAL in a Jan. 12 statement to their Instagram following. “SafeCC has made massive changes in the structure of the school itself, which could not have occurred during a pandemic without massive teamwork. However, We’re. Not. Done.”
According to CAL co-leader Sophie Cardin ’22, there are mixed emotions among CAL leaders about the updated campus safety plan.
“Some of us feel that the proposal was not an abolitionist proposal and thus the plan is not an abolitionist plan,” Cardin said in a written statement to The Catalyst. “Others see the establishment of the Oversight Board as an essential step towards divestment and a sure way to ensure student involvement in future decisions of this sort.”
While the student organization acknowledged its appreciation for the CC community’s effort and response to their proposal, some of its members believe that more could have been done.
CAL co-leader Martrice Ellis ’21 said the administration’s response “matched the general trend of what usually happens when activism meets academia.”
Ellis explained that while several of CAL’s demands were not met — specifically demands 16-18 that focused on alternatives to law enforcement — CC did agree to not rehire any CSPD officers that have had a record of inappropriate or racist behavior. The college also agreed they will not hire CSPD officers with a disciplinary record.
According to Cardin and Ellis, CAL and SafeCC still intend to continue to strive toward divestment from CSPD.
The CC administration emphasized to the community that the MOU between CSPD and CC is solely an agreement, not a binding contract.
In a written statement to The Catalyst, Dean Dickey, Dean Rodriguez, and Dr. Sawyer explained that CC and the broader community share a long history, and prior to the establishment of a CRO, “students were often at odds with community members and often victims of crimes (such as break-in or theft) without a swift response or support.”
The Deans and Dr. Sawyer said that having the CRO afforded students shorter response times and allowed the college more oversight on the officer’s training requirements and how conflicts between students and the broader community were handled.
The administration stated that they are concerned the termination of the CRO would diminish communication between CSPD and CC and strain the campus’ relationship with the broader community.
They also noted that eliminating a CRO disproportionately affects BIPOC communities on campus.
“Having a criminal record for a BIPOC individual holds significantly more consequences than for a white person when looking at future employment, entry into graduate schools, and even housing,” they wrote.
They explained that campus programs through the CRO “significantly decrease” a student’s chances of having criminal charges that could negatively impact their future.
The administration also stated that racial profiling often deters BIPOC communities from reporting crimes against them, including sexual assault. The Deans and Dr. Sawyer believe that a CRO provides more options and support for assault victims instead of going to the police station.
As the CC administration and CAL work together to ensure a safe campus for all students, they both welcome community input. Both parties are currently discussing the logistics of a campus Think Tank as an opportunity for symposia regarding policing equity, mental health and well-being, and sexual violence.
As the CC community collectively strives towards becoming an anti-racist institution, both the CC administration and CAL look forward to continuing their campus safety efforts with incoming President-Elect L. Song Richardson, who as a legal scholar, lawyer, dean, and chancellor professor of law at California University, Irvine Law School, brings substantial expertise in policing, equity, and community safety.
All community input to CC regarding campus safety can be sent to Dr. Sawyer at email@example.com no later than Feb. 15. CAL/SafeCC participation inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “SafeCC.”